Salem is the center of a strong agricultural sector; home to sustainable industries like SANYO Solar of Oregon, Kettle Foods, Sequential Bio Fuels, AgriPlas and Truitt Brothers; stable government employment as the state and county seat; large private employers including Garmin Industries, Salem Hospital and the recently announced Home Depot Rapid Deployment Center. Local educational institutions — including Chemeketa Community College Center for Business and Industry, Willamette University and Western Oregon University — provide undergraduate and graduate programs and workforce training, and contribute to cultural events and art that enrich the community. Salem's vibrant, historic downtown has several parks within walking distance, and a wide array of restaurants, hotels and tourist attractions. As of 2009, it is the third largest city in Oregon, the hub of the state's second largest metropolitan population.
In 2010-2011, SCI partnered with the City of Salem on 14 identified projects, including redevelopment schemes for areas north and south of downtown, restoration efforts on Minto Island, a city-wide civic engagement strategic plan, an integrated plan for safe bicycle and pedestrian access to downtown parks and paths, potential design schemes for city departments and a new police station, strategies for industrial by-product re-use and economic development plans. The fourteen projects are expected to involve over 500 students in 25+ courses across seven departments at the University of Oregon and one department at Portland State University.